ELECTION 2020

Iowa Youth Straw Poll shows Republican sweep

Students at 250 schools part of election lesson

Scott Reittinger teaches an eighth-grade American History class Tuesday at Prairie Point Middle School in Cedar Rapids.
Scott Reittinger teaches an eighth-grade American History class Tuesday at Prairie Point Middle School in Cedar Rapids. Schools across the state participated in Tuesday’s Iowa Youth Straw Poll, which occurs before every general election in Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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If the next president were chosen by Iowa’s youth, Donald Trump would be reelected with almost 57 percent of the vote, according to the Iowa Youth Straw Poll conducted Tuesday.

Students in 250 schools across Iowa participated in the straw poll one week before Election Day, including schools in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Linn-Mar and College Community districts, as well as Xavier High School and Mount Vernon Middle School.

According to the poll, Republicans swept the vote with Democrats falling behind in every race.

The straw poll is sponsored by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. Every presidential and congressional candidate who qualified for Iowa’s 2020 general election ballot is included in the poll.

Democratic president candidate Joe Biden received 30 percent of the vote, with rapper Kayne West, who is on the ballot with no party affiliation, following with 8.5 percent of the vote.

Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst came out ahead of Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield, 54.7 to 36.4 percent.

Students also voted for U.S. House candidates in their districts, with Republicans coming out on top in all four races — Ashley Hinson (55.5 percent) over Abby Finkenauer (44.5 percent) in District 1; Mariannette Miller-Meeks (56 percent) over Rita Hart (44 percent) in District 2; David Young (48.2 percent) over Cindy Axne (46.1 percent) in District 3; and Randy Feenstra (67.2 percent) over J.D. Scholten (32.8 percent) in District 4.

The poll is an opportunity for thousands of students across Iowa to experience the election process even if they are not 18 years old and yet eligible to vote, Pate said.

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“It gives them a taste of why it is important, so that when they are 18, they will step right up and be a voter and be part of their community,” he said.

The poll is a reflection of what students are thinking about what’s happening in politics, Pate said. Students could be making decisions based on conversations around the dinner table, with their peers and what they gather from social media, Pate said.

“The dialogue they are having at home has a lot of influence in the way (students) are voting, and I think it goes both ways,” Pate said. “I think the young people have an opportunity to also influence their parents.”

Scott Reittinger, Prairie Point Middle School eighth-grade American History teacher, echoed Pate’s sentiment during class Tuesday before his students voted.

Reittinger encouraged students to talk to their parents and adults in their life to have a voice in the election even if they can’t yet vote.

Mount Vernon Middle School Social Studies teacher Brett Moorman said the poll is an investment in the eighth-grade students he teaches, some of whom will be able to vote in the 2024 presidential election.

In Moorman’s class, students learned how to register to vote and about how to be an educated voter.

In the 2016 Iowa youth straw poll, the majority of students cast their vote for Trump, who ended up winning Iowa in the actual election.

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Moorman wonders what can be learned from this year’s straw poll and if it will predict the 2020 winner. With a celebrity musician on the presidential ballot, however, Moorman said some students had fun and cast their vote for him.

In a sixth-grade humanities class at Summit Schools, a private prekindergarten through middle school in Cedar Rapids, students cast their ballots and learned that it’s easy to vote.

Summit teacher Angie Neuville, who had students vote during a humanities class, taught students about the Democratic and Republican parties and discussed the candidates before having students vote.

They even held a mock election with celebrity candidates, including Mickey Mouse, Wonder Woman, Michelle Obama and Captain America.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

Rod Boshart of The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed.

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